How to Clean a Bathtub

In this guide we teach you how to clean a bathtub the right way. A bathtub is often the centerpiece of your bathroom. It gets a lot of use and if it’s supposed to clean you, you need to make sure that it is clean, too. Over time, grime, soap scum and mildew can build up around your bathtub. Luckily, there are many bathtub cleaners out there and there are also quite a few DIY bathtub cleaners to ensure you’re left with a sparkling bathtub.

Cleaning your bathtub doesn’t need to be a daunting task. With a few cleaning supplies and a great cleaner, you can have a sparkling bathtub after just a little cleaning.

How often you should clean your bathtub really depends on how often you use it and the number of people in your household.

If your bathtub gets used a few times a week, you should try to rinse it out once a week and give it a deep clean once a month. If it only gets used once or twice a month, one good cleaning every other month should be sufficient.

If you make a habit of cleaning your bathtub at least once a month, it will help keep your grout and tile clean too. Cleaning it regularly will help prevent soap scum from building up or mold from growing due to bacterial build up.

1 Cleaning Bathtub Wall
Glove cleaning bathtub by Marco Verch / CC BY 2.0 When cleaning your bathtub, you can also take the time to clean the drain, grout and tile surrounding your bathtub to remove any soap scum buildup.

Get Your Supplies

  • Gloves –  Before you get started, make sure to use rubber gloves to protect your hands from any harsh cleaners. It’s also important to note that if you are using cleaners with strong chemicals, such as bleach, to make sure the window is cracked or a fan is on in the bathroom to prevent any mishaps. 
  • Grout Brush –  A grout brush is an essential tool to effectively cleaning the grout around your bathtub. This brush works well in tight spaces and can not only get your grout clean, but the shower door tracks as well. It can also be used around your bathtub drain, too. 
  • Sponge – When choosing a sponge to clean your bathtub, be mindful of the material your tub is made from. Whether it’s porcelain, fiberglass or acrylic, you likely won;t want to use an abrasive cleaning pad such as a stainless steel scrub. Rather, aim to use a soft sponge, such as this 3M Scotch-Brite Handled Bath Scrubber. 

Store-Bought Cleaners

Once you’ve got your supplies, it’s time to start cleaning! First remove everything from your bathtub. This includes shampoo and bath gel bottles, razors and any toys from around the perimeter of the bathtub or on shelving.

Some dirt and other grime can be seen surrounding the tub. By applying a store-bought or DIY cleaner, you can easily remove the buildup and be left with a clean, white tub. 

This is a good time to clean out the drain. Even if it’s not clogged, there is likely hair or other residue and build up in it. The grout brush can be used here.

If you’re going to be cleaning your bathtub, it’s a good time to clean any walls, tile or glass surrounding it.

The walls and tile can be cleaned with an all purpose cleaner, such as 409.  Just follow the directions on the package. The glass can be cleaned with a generic window cleaner or microfiber cloth. Use the cloth to do a good wipedown.

As for the bathtub itself, Clorox, Mr. Clean and Soft Scrub are some great cleaners. If you’d prefer to use a natural cleaner that is void of chemicals, Mrs. Meyers and Method are excellent, all-natural cleaners. Just follow the directions on the package to ensure you’re left with a clean tub.

DIY Cleaners 

Cleaning Mixture One

A great DIY cleaner that is both simple and efficient is a mixture of white vinegar and water. Simply take half a cup of vinegar and half a cup of warm water. Fill a spray bottle with the mixture and spray it all over the surface of the bathtub. Let it stand at least 15 minutes and then wipe it off with a damp sponge or small cloth towel. Lastly, rinse the tub with water.

A spray bottle filled with equal parts white vinegar and water is a simple and effective cleaner for your bathtub.

If your bathtub has some extra dirty areas that require a little more attention and cleaning, you only need to take one additional step: take some baking soda and sprinkle it over the dirtiest aresa on your tub. Then take your cleaning mixture from up above, half water and half white vinegar, and spray it over the baking soda.

Baking soda is a useful cleaning item that can be used to clean different items in your home. It works as a natural scrub that’s not too abrasive.

Baking soda is a great, natural cleaner. Sprinkle it on dirty areas of your tub, Then spray it with a water/white vinegar mixture. Let the cleaning mixture sit and work its magic, rinse off and wipe clean.

The cleaning mixture will get fizzy as it breaks down the dirt and grime. Let the cleaning mixture sit for at least 10 minutes and then wipe it clean with a damp towel or sponge. Rinse out the tub and dry it with a towel.

Cleaning Mixture Two 

Another great DIY bathtub cleaner can easily be made with some other household cleaning products. You’ll need a small bowl. Pour half a cup of baking soda and half a cup of dish soap into the bowl. You can also add several drops of essential oil, such as lemon, to add a fresh scent to the room. Mix everything well including the dish soap.

Then take a sponge or small rag and rub the mixture of cleaning products all over the tub, making sure to put some elbow grease into dirtier areas. You should let the cleaning mixture sit on the tub for about 10 minutes. Then rinse the cleaning mixture off well and dry with a towel.

2 DIY Cleaning Mixtures
Tub Before by noricum / CC BY-SA 2.0 After spraying on a mixture of white vinegar and water, the bathtub is left clean with no soap scum.

Cleaning Mixture Three

A third great DIY bathtub cleaner involves mixing a salt scrub with grapefruit. The acid from the grapefruit combined with the salt’s natural abrasiveness helps you scrub away any grime left on the tub. Additionally, the grapefruit will leave your bathroom with a very pleasant citrus scent to it. 

The first thing you’ll do is get your grapefruit and cut it in half. Take half of the grapefruit and cover it with salt. Run the water in your bathtub and swish it around to get the tub’s walls and bottom wet. Sprinkle a fine layer of table salt onto the bathtub. 

Next, take your grapefruit and scrub at the sides and bottom of the tub. As you push, the fruit will release the juice. If you have a lot of grime, you may have to use the other half too, and you just prepare it like we outlined for the first half. When you finish, rinse away the pulp, juice, and salt remains to get a very clean looking and smelling bathtub. 

Cleaning Mixture Four

Another very simple DIY cleaning mixture is lemon with borax. This mixture also works very well on hard stains in your bathtub. Once you locate the stains, all you have to do is coat them with a very fine layer of borax. Allow it to sit for 5 to 10 minutes.

Get a lemon and cut it in half. Rub the lemon directly on the borax and the stain. The acid content will help to cut through the stain, and the borax provides abrasiveness to help lift it away. Let this mixture stand on the stain for 15 to 20 minutes before you wash it away. 

How to Clean a Bathtub Based on Type

There are different types of bathtubs available, and what works well for one may be far too abrasive for a different type. So, we’re going to break down how to clean your bathtub by type so there is no confusion. 

How to Clean an Acrylic Bathtub

A harsh cleaner can quickly dull the finish on your acrylic bathtub. However, you can clean it by mixing baking soda, lemon juice, and dish soap. The baking soda will be key to breaking up any soap scum that is stuck to your acrylic tub. You’ll have to: 

  • Mix your baking soda and dish soap to a 1:1 ratio and add in a few drops of lemon juice
  • Mix everything until it starts to foam up
  • Get a sponge and coat the acrylic tub with the solution
  • Allow the solution to sit for 30 minutes without disturbing it
  • Get a wet sponge and wipe down your tub from top to bottom. The dirty water should run down the tub.
  • Run warm water and rinse your entire tub out. 

How to Clean a Fiberglass Bathtub Using Vinegar

Vinegar is a very nice household cleaner that works from everything from a homemade weed killer to cleaning bathtubs. It’s also a disinfectant that works well on porcelain and fiberglass bathtubs, but it’s far too harsh to use on an acrylic tub. You clean it by: 

  • Get a spray bottle and create a mixture of water and vinegar. For a fiberglass tub, this will be a 2:1 water-to-vinegar ratio, and a porcelain tub will be a 1:1 water-to-vinegar ratio. If you want an extra cleaning boost, add in a teaspoon of lemon juice. 
  • Spray your entire bathtub with this solution and allow it to sit undisturbed for 15 to 20 minutes
  • Get a damp cloth or a sponge and lightly scrub at your bathtub’s surface. You want to start at the top and work your way down. This will allow any soap scum or grit you get loose to run down and drain out as you work. 
  • For heavily stained bathtubs, you’ll fill it with a solution of hot water, a cup or two of baking soda, and a ½ to full gallon of vinegar, and let it sit for 30 to 60 minutes. Drain the bathtub and use a sponge to scrub at any leftover stains. If it’s still stained, repeat the process. 

How to Clean a Porcelain-Enameled Bathtub

This type of bathtub will lend a modern and luxurious look to your bathroom during a bathroom remodel, and they’re very durable. You want to avoid damaging this sleek surface by using gentle supplies and cleaners on it, and you can clean it by: 

  • Combine an equal amount of baking soda, ammonia, and warm water into a bucket. 
  • Dip a soft sponge or cloth into your mixture and scrub at the bathtub. 
  • Rinse the tub before wiping it clean. 
  • If you have a stained porcelain-enamel bathtub, you can sprinkle the interior of the tub with a thin layer of salt and lemon juice. Let this mixture sit for an hour without disturbing it before scrubbing at it and rinsing it down the drain. 

3 Soap and Water Cleaning
Day 174…..Bathtub Cleaning by Phillip Jeffrey / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 Many people mistakenly believe that it’s okay to use any cleaner they want on their bathtubs, but this can end up damaging the surface coating and make it look very dull. 

How to Clean a Stone-Resin Bathtub

Stone-resin is a manmade material that is very resistant to scratches and stains and durable. It’s a very easy to clean surface that can become the focal point of your bathroom, and it’ll look like new for years to come if you make a point to clean it regularly. You’ll need: 

  • Get a bucket and mix water with a few tablespoons of dishwashing detergent. If you have a tough stain or two, you’ll scrub at it with a cream cleanser to dissolve them. 
  • Get a cloth to scrub at your tub to finish removing the stains. 
  • Rinse the tub multiple times to get everything out, and wipe it dry to prevent streaking. 

How to Clean a Bathtub That Has Jets

If you have a bathtub with jets, you’ll clean it differently than you would a traditional bathtub. Before you clean anything for the first time, take a look at the manual. Some manufacturers recommend that you close the air controls while others recommend you leave them open. Other companies recommend using a specific cleanser for the jets. Depending on what you find, you’ll: 

  • Fill your bathtub until the water covers the jets with an inch or two of hot water
  • Add two tablespoons of any low-foaming dishwasher powder and four tablespoons of white vinegar to the water 
  • Switch the jets on and run them for 15 minutes 
  • Empty your bath and refill it with cold water before allowing your jets to run for 10 minutes
  • Drain the tub fully 
  • Rinse the tub well and get a nonabrasive cloth to remove any stray debris
  • For dirt around the jet covers, get a piece of dental floss and work it around and behind them

How to Clean Bathtub Taps

If you want to clean your bathtub taps, you shouldn’t use any harsh types of chemicals because it could damage the surface and mar your bathroom design. Lemon juice works very well to dissolve limescale and help you get rid of any buildup. If you make a point to regularly clean your taps, they can shine and look very nice for years to come. To clean them, you’ll: 

  • Get a lemon, cut it in half, and squeeze the juice into a bowl
  • Take a half of your lemon and shove it onto the tap’s spout, twisting it gently until it stays without you holding it. Leave it for 10 to 15 minutes.
  • Soak a few cotton wool pads in lemon juice and wrap the pads around the parts of your taps that have the biggest problem with limescale. 
  • Allow everything to sit for an  hour 
  • Rise with cold water and wipe clean
  • For stubborn limescale, you can scrub with a scourer. If you want to get rid of anything left, repeat the process with another lemon. 

How to Clean a Bathtub Drain

If you haven’t cleaned the drain in a while and it’s running slow, you should take a few minutes to clear it out while you clean out your bathtub. Get a straightened out wire hanger with a curved end and put some gloves on. This will allow you to fish any hair out of the drain or anything else that’s blocking it. Pour hot water down the drain next. For any remaining buildup, you’ll pour a cup of baking soda followed by a cup of vinegar down your drain. Allow it to sit for 15 to 30 minutes before flushing it all down with hot water. 

How to Clean Mold and Mildew in a Bathtub

Mold in the bath or shower is very common, and it can be difficult to remove. But, this simple trick can help. Get a bowl of bleach and toilet bowl cleaner. These are gel products that will cling to any mold and help break it down. This process goes like this: 

  • Squirt your toilet bowl cleaner along your mildewed or moldy areas
  • If you have mold in the corner, squirt the gel here and cover it with a paper towel to create a dam and hold it in place 
  • Allow the gel to sit without disturbing it so it can work into the mold or mildew. This usually takes an hour, but bad problems should be left to sit overnight. 
  • Wash the tub from top to bottom using a scrub brush after the allotted time passes. 
  • Rinse with cold water, and be careful not to splash the bleach anywhere. 

4 Cleaning Mold and Mildew
Details of an Old Bathroom by Dejan Krsmanovic / CC BY 2.0 Mold and mildew is common in bathrooms because the heat and humidity creates the perfect environment for it to thrive. 

How to Clean a Bathtub with Bleach

If the bathtub is severely stained, you might have to kick your cleaning efforts up a notch and break out the bleach. You’ll want to wear a respirator or face mask, gloves, and safety glasses when you work with the bleach. Remember, some acrylic tub manufacturers don’t want you to use bleach because it can void the warranty and destroy the finish. Bleach works on porcelain or fiberglass without an issue though, and you’ll use it by: 

  • Mix a gallon of water with ½ cup of bleach 
  • Get a sponge and coat the bathtub’s surface with the water and bleach mixture
  • Allow the mixture to sit on the bathtub for 5 to 10 minutes 
  • Rinse the tub with cold water, being careful not to splash the bleach around

How to Remove Hard Water Stains from a Bathtub

Layers of mineral deposits look like they would be impossible to remove, but they can be relatively easy to get out of your bathtub if you have the right mixture and a little time. You can: 

  • Dip a few paper towels in full-strength white vinegar. 
  • Place your soaked paper towels right on the stained areas of your bathtub
  • Let this soak in for two hours without disturbing it
  • Remove the paper towels and scrub it with a paste made out of baking soda and vinegar
  • Rinse clean with cold water

How to Remove Rust Stains

You can treat and remove any rust stains on your bathtub by using a paste made out of lemon juice and borax. To do so, you’ll: 

  • Sprinkle all of your rust stains with a light coating of borax
  • Cut the lemon and half and scrub at the borax until it forms a paste 
  • Allow the paste to sit on the stains for 15 to 30 minutes 
  • Wipe the area with a damp cloth and rinse the bathtub clean

Important Criteria for the Best Bathtub Cleaner 

Before you rush out to buy a bathtub cleaner or make one of your own, you should know a few things about this product. Knowing these items can help you see which products are good and which are bad, and it’ll allow you to compare products better. The criteria include: 

  • Ingredient List – The ingredient list is very important for several reasons. First, some chemicals can be irritating for your respiratory system if you breathe them in. You should try to use products that are rich in bleaching agents, and you should consider going for more natural products over chemical-heavy ones.  
  • Quantity Needed – How much product do you need to clean your bathtub at one time? Any solution you pick out should be strong enough to not need a lot per use. If you have to use a large amount of product for a single cleaning session, it’s most likely not very efficient to start with.  
  • Stain-Focused – Not all cleaners work well for all bathroom stains, so you might have to seek out very specific products if you have a particular type of stain you want to tackle. For example, some products work well to combat mildew stains, others work better on limescale buildup, and others work best on hard-water stains.  
  • Low Acid Content – If your cleaners are very rich in acid ingredients, this could wreak havoc on your bathtub’s surface. Generally, you want any cleaning agent you use in your bathtub to have acidic content that comes in at 5% or lower. 

How to Clean Grout or Caulk Around Bathtub and Seal It

If you have a built-in tub, bath/shower combination, or if it’s built into an alcove, you’ll have to make a point to clean the surrounding areas regularly. If you have tile around your bathtub, you can spray the area with tile cleaner and gently scrub at it to get rid of any existing stains. Get a grout brush and create a mixture of water and baking soda to remove any grime buildup between the tiles. 

If you want to clean sealant or caulk around your bathtub, you can mix a small amount of baking soda with chlorine bleach to create a very thick paste. Apply this paste directly to the sealant or caulk and let it sit for 10 to 15 minutes before you rinse it away. If the area is very damaged or moldy, you may want to consider tearing it out and replacing it. 

5 Grout Cleaning
Grout by Kordite / CC BY-NC 2.0 Cleaning and sealing your grout regularly is the key to having a nice looking bathroom. Sealing it can protect the grout from cracking, and this makes it last longer while making it harder for mold to grow. 

How to Seal Your Grout

Ideally, you want to seal the grout twice a year because sealing it helps shield it from the humidity and moisture in the bathroom. To seal it, you’ll: 

  • Get a penetrating sealer because these will coat your grout but allow moisture to seep through and escape. Your grout won’t crack nearly as much with this type of sealer. 
  • Clear out anything that could block your grout because you want direct access to apply your sealant. 
  • Clean off your grout. You can apply the bleach we talked about earlier if the grout has discoloration before allowing it to dry.
  • Make sure you have good ventilation in the room before you start. Keep the bathroom door open and open a window. Run a fan if you need to. 
  • Get a sponge or applicator brush and apply the sealer. Place some sealer on the applicator and work it into the grout. Only work on a small area at a time so it’s easy to track. 
  • Wipe off any excess after 10 minutes. The sealer will be soaked in already, and you don’t want to leave any stuck on the tile. 

Tips for Keeping Your Tub Cleaner, Longer

The easiest way to keep your tub clean is simply to clean it after you use it. This is the easiest time to clean a bathtub, when there is not much buildup. Of course, this isn’t always practical. However, if you take a bath, a quick rinse out of the tub should help prevent soap scum from building up. Similarly, if you have a pet dog and give it a bath in your tub, you should rinse the tub after you’re done to get rid of dirt and bacteria.

Even if you only shower, your tub can still become dirty due to bacterial growth and traces of soap residue left behind so it’s still important to clean your bathtub at least monthly. Another easy way to keep your bathtub and shower clean is to get rid of leftover, excess moisture. A squeegee works well to get rid of water on the tile leftover after a shower. Taking some time to do this simple cleaning step will help prevent mildew and mold from growing.

Hope our guide on how to clean a bathtub was useful. Now that the task of cleaning your bathtub is done, fill your sparkling tub with some warm water and bubbles and relax!

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